- A writer, mother, teacher, friend, I love books, blizzards and beaches, music from Hildegard von Bingen to the Beatles to Bonnie Raitt to The Brood; I love medieval churches, red wine, creme caramel, and roasted beets, and walking the woods and coastlines of home.
Sunday, December 5, 2010
with a few rocks loose, a terrifying iron
staircase inside that starts off circular, then climbs
calcified walls in an Escher-like zigzag.
this particular image is called.
In any case going up is easier than
descending, the most heart-stopping part
looking down. The foreshortened end of
the circular stairs
So you put off leaving, and stay
at the summit as long as possible,
the view from the top quite splendid--the stuff
of dreams, if you have x-ray eyes
that can see to the very bottom of the
arm below. Bottles, golf balls, no doubt
a dead rowboat or two.
And all those dares, double dares, triple,
stories, kids' bragging, tales of scaling the flagpoles
at the very top,
just to show off...
Friday, December 3, 2010
Words to boost us on these bleak rainy days that are so short on daylight. The greyness and bareness plotting, surely. All the natural world in wait. Snow, some snow would be good. A healthy bit of blizzarding (once school is over, marking finished, grades submitted, DONE) and that hunkering down that means winter. That hallowed season for word nerds: the best kind of hibernation, with no temptations of bee balm, hummingbirds, grass. Tho I'm not sure how Catherine would interpret this, kneeling in Tuscany six hundred years ago. Hang in, hang in. It's what we do, along with being honest, even when the truth hurts.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Two years ago I wandered along Juno Beach--the very strand on which my dad landed with his company, his brigade. My little dad, driving a tank. Blood shit and corruption, was how he quoted a buddy describing the war. Burnt flesh. The stench, the utter, utter waste of death.
The very worst thing for me, when he died, was knowing how his youth, his best years were spent on this. Knowing how he had been shortchanged. And knowing, now, how all who do battle--whether in Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, wherever--are being shortchanged, swindled of life.
Sunday, October 31, 2010
So far at the door we've had a Viking, a computer, a banana, Bo Peep, a raisin, the Cat in the Hat, a boy-woman, a pint-size pirate, a pimp (maybe) and a vampire with an uncanny resemblance to Grampa Munster--to name a few, these among many other versions of Dracula and broods of witches. You gotta love it, this night of letting alter-egos out to play! Which takes me back to Halloweens when my kids were small (Zorro, bat, pirate, clown, Robin Hood, ghost, witch, crusader, hunchback...) and back, way back to trick or treating before Sobeys invented plastic bags. The days of big brown paper ones, useless in a steady Haligonian rain (when didn't it rain on Halloween?)when only the spoilt kids got pillow cases. Now those plasticized reusable "bags for life" make perfect totes for sugary loot: more expandable than plastic pumpkins, and just about guaranteed not to give out, let go, and spill a cache of hard-won candy in the middle of the mushy-leaved road. So long, soggy brown bags, bruised apples and teeth-gripping candy kisses! But maybe, just maybe, those days were more atmospheric?
Saturday, October 30, 2010
Friday, October 29, 2010
More and more, poetry appeals as the ideal form, this affirmed by Mary Oliver who says, "Poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry."
Maybe a certain fasting helps? The fasting enforced by lack of time, trusting in survival of the fittest ideas. In the meantime, while keeping lips zipped,let us observe Oliver's advice:
"Athletes take care of their bodies. Writers must similarly take care of the sensibility that houses the possibility of poems. There is nourishment in books, other art, history, philosophies--in holiness and in mirth."
Amen to that, sistah!
Monday, October 11, 2010
No better way on earth to learn about multi-hued possibility and perspectives than travel. Alas, I started relatively late.
The "problem" is that magical big cities are so highly, outrageously addictive--so much so that I'm already checking out Expedia. The world in all its glory: so much to see, so little time and disposable income. If I won a lottery I would become self-indulgently homeless: a walking, flying nomad--a global butterfly.
But but but...if that were the case I know what I'd miss: such things as potted geraniums, cut dahlias on the sill, the threat of frost, Thanksgiving turkey soup, my own bed, the reliably ordinary route of my morning walks, a favourite teacup....All these little worldly things that pin us down, locate and soothe us.
Visiting the sublime has that power: to illuminate the quotidian, to help us live in a kind of humility, the kind that equals gratitude.
Saturday, October 2, 2010
But is the taste for blood worse because of these new media platforms--or is it simply business as usual for those who like destroying people, whether or not the Internet breeds a crazy sense of impunity? Is the media still the message? (Lord love a duck, what would McLuhan think?)
In the oddest way, all this stuff has a way of forcing the creative person underground: that is, seizing whatever solitude and privacy is left in our world in order to do what we do. Focus on the ideas clamouring so quietly for attention amid the buzz of Out There. Surely it was easier to write a book three, four, five, twenty years ago than now. Even when the info is benign, it takes such herculean energy to tune it out and linger in one's imagination. Is it any wonder the world seems out of control?
Saturday, September 4, 2010
Still, a piece of cake, this storm, relatively. The biggest hardship no internet. But once again, the ultra cabin fever of being locked inside your house inside your little neighbourhood with no access to, no clue at all about the fate of neighbourhoods mere blocks or a few kilometers away. The world reduced to a tiny, silent sphere. Never mind the food thawing in the freezer, the veggies going limp in the fridge. The thing that made me most ansty (next to the thrashing power line entangled in a tree) the feeling of being cut adrift, however real or artificial or delusional, deprived of connectivity.
Friday, September 3, 2010
What is new is how you and your buds remind us how the rest of the world lives. How disasters can be just a breath away.
This year has been especially full--not with your kind as with your distant relatives.
Not that we can compare. Not as I cut a sampling of late summer flowers: dahlias, cone flowers, golden glow--and contemplate a leisurely drive down the coast to watch for breakers.
Not as I stockpile an extra meal's worth of chicken off the bbq, contemplate grunt from leftover blueberries in the presently operational fridge.
Who knows where you'll make landfall. Like some pissed off explorer sick of the bad food at sea, maybe ridden with scurvy for all we know.
Avast, ye swab!
The trees await you, uncomplaining.
Saturday, August 28, 2010
As soon as school starts, time to unplug and delve. Easier said than done. Aimlessness gets addictive, and so do surfaces.
Franzen also talks about how good days are ones when he writes well, and bad days when he writes nothing.
Translation: The queasiness that comes with too much summer, days full of too much fun, all play and no work. Peace, true peace, found only through focus and the escape into discipline.
Okay, one last beach day, swimming and reading a trashy novel whose title I'll keep to myself. Counting down to September 1st.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
So we put our faith in fall? Back to school, nose to the grindstone, hamster on the wheel--the all of it, the quotidian stuff of daily routine that focuses some of us, anyway, away from the staying-stillness of lying on a beach, etcetera.
Norris also quotes St. Benedict, suggesting that it is important to remember at least once a day that we will die: the best antidote of all to acedia, that slippery slope from carefree to careless to despair. Writing such a tricky, odd balance between thinking we have forever to find the right words, sinking happily into its present, and eternally playing beat the clock.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
routine-wise. At the desk, lost in words for hours:
A good day,
pulling in scraps, tidbits jotted here and there
these past weeks.
Something about the slant of light now, the wind itself,
the restlessness of trees,
the countdown till school.
All a reminder to write/make hay
before the first frost of marking hits.
No better place to be, though, than here
(or there) on my dinosaur desktop,
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Seals in the Arm: some kind of tattoo? Like the huckleberry leaves that as kids we licked and fixed to our wrists, the yellowy imprints they left, utterly temporary. This in the day when serious ink was exclusively naval. Anchors, undulating babes, text: "Mom" inside an inky heart.
Ephemeral--the huckleberry ones. As short-lived as the sighting of a seal's snout, its wake stirring the deep, narrow channel at high tide. Mornings best, the water a green wind in the rockweed. Just like when we used to swim there. Dog-paddling.
A solitary seal doing its best to motor past a speedboat. Head just like a retriever's on the breakaway before sounding.
And gratitude from the land-bound for such small things: their presence swimming out there as if the water were pure. As if all might be so resilient
Thursday, August 5, 2010
The main thing is to keep in mind that creating is first of all about play. And summer is about vacations. Not to say that anyone's avoiding hard work. But there's a time and a season, right?
So. If someone can make objets d'art out of pop bottles, so we can spin engrossing tales about kids working in thrift shops and perverts shooting wedding pix. All right? Okay.
Friday, July 30, 2010
On a cheerier note the hummingbirds continue to make our backyard home. The other day I saw what must have been a baby no bigger than a queen bee, about the size of half my thumb, humming around the heliotrope. Truly the most amazing critter I think I've ever seen. Wings beating so fast the little thing got worn out and had to rest on the clothesline.
Small but mighty, almost invisible but there.
The creative spirit trying once again to anchor itself, those little talons hanging on to reality for dear life. Tick tick tick: how many days before September? Not enough. The rough first draft notes for a novel weighing on me. But, thank God they're there: a sketchy road map is better than none at all.
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Ferocious, tough as nails, full of wanderlust,
proof that small is best,
Monday, July 19, 2010
Thursday, July 15, 2010
Nothing like conservation, and coming prepared, a la that K'naan song. A rain barrel like a notebook full of story ideas, all you gotta do is dip your watering can and let it d/rip.
Of course there's nothing more beneficial than regular watering. Plants and writers such creatures of habit, and gloriously phototropic; one hopes anyway. Writing towards the sun, even during drought and spells of night blindness.
Today I'm thinking of Gail Sher, her book One Continuous Mistake, Four Noble Truths for Writers:
"If writing is your practice," she says, "the only way to fail is not to write."
And if you don't write, it's guaranteed that you won't get out those words that someone somewhere might actually need or want to hear. Our words falling on the stoniest ground sometimes, yet still sprouting responses.
Like the one I got to yesterday's blog from a plumber in Baltimore who must've felt compassion for those in the town I wrote about where plumbers (ones who come to your house) have either all migrated to Alberta or just don't like plumbing.
Little difference, when it comes down to it, between writers and plumbers: we ply our crafts. For a plumber the only way to fail is not to plumb.
And plumbers have fun with words, too. Like the local guy with these ones on his truck:
"Don't sleep with a drip, call me!"
Words to consider, when water runs amok.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
What Women Want, it's called. Housed in a former butcher shop (I think but could be very wrong) or possibly a bake shop, it's a brick bunker of a building with thick, padlocked shutters and, on a cheery note, a row of pretty molded Adirondack chairs out front. Set between two dirt parking lots, the store is an upscale souvenir shop designed (I think) to appeal to the tourist trade, the bus tour crowd, perhaps, who frequent that other, more picturesque town 30 miles away, made famous by Alexander Graham Bell and his Silver Dart.
Cupid, draw back your bo-o-ow!
(But I digress--only slightly). Given its name, does the store specialize in, well, loooove? Things romantic?
The name connotes pampering, self-indulgence (the good kind that all of us are supposed to hanker for) and, well, in short, the stuff that girly dreams are made of.
Inside is a veritable cornucopia of potpourri, kitchen kitsch, semi-upscale knick-knacks and bath items. Some of the merch is rather appealing, but, being a Frenchy's shopper, I'm not a very reliable source/critic here.
But I love the name, and it drew me in--as I'm sure it has and will others.
So, what do women want?
As a couple of Facebook friends have pointed out, the shop-owner (presumably female) could use some more letters for her day-glo sign.
But on a more serious note, what do we want?
World peace. An easy winter. Paying work. Food for all. Clean air. Clean water. The bugs to stop eating our plants. More people to appreciate the power of the printed and electronic word, and of stories. Our stories. Good walking companions, dogs welcome. Non-picking cats. Silence, sometimes. Rain in rain-barrels. Raspberries on canes. Fresh sheets of paper. A new pen. A car or bike that only takes you where you want to go. A bike path with no hard hills. Lots of trees, flowers, bushes, and not a lot of grass. Good rocks. Red wine, preferably Italian. Goat cheese, and gorgonzola. Tomatoes. And right up there with the air and water, kindred women to talk to.
And this is just barely scratching the surface. My surface. How about yours?
Saturday, July 10, 2010
But, what's to stop a writer who's gotten antsy waiting on the antiquated, grindingly slow industry from just going ahead and posting her work so that at least the readers who keep asking, Where's the Next Book? can get to read it. But but but, for the sticky issue of $$$$. We all wanna get paid for our hard, blood-sweat-and-tears labour, But we also want to reach those who appreciate--love?--our work.
Anyway, kudos in the meantime to the Writers Union of Canada and the coalition of writers and readers working now to ensure fair copyright legislation to protect us.
Okay, now off to listen to Rose Cousins's The Send Off, which is fantastic....
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
And what has the world to gain by this--what difference will it make, getting this stuff down?
A question not many writers can or should entertain too intently, perhaps.
But, what are we if not our reflections?
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
1) The Halifax Club Literary Luncheon
Thursday, July 22, 2010
12pm – 2pm
Sheree Fitch, Shandi Mitchell and Binnie Brennan
Sheree Fitch is a multi award-winning writer, speaker, and educator and the author of twenty-three books in a variety of genres. She has received the Vicky Metcalf Award for a body of work inspirational to Canadian children and two honorary doctorates for her contribution to Canadian literature and issues affecting women and children. Her latest work is the critically acclaimed Kiss The Joy As It Flies (2008).
Shandi Mitchell is Halifax-based author and filmmaker. Her debut novel Under This Unbroken Sky (2009) was published in Canada, the U.S and the U.K. and won the 2010 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book for Canada and the Caribbean. The narrative also picked up both the Thomas Head Raddall Atlantic Fiction award and John and Margaret Savage First Book Award at this year’s Atlantic Book Awards.
Binnie Brennan has had her work published in a number of literary journals, including The Wascana Review, Existere, and All Rights Reserved. In 2007 her children’s story A Spider’s Tale was adapted for stage in a collaboration of Symphony Nova Scotia and Dalhousie Theatre. Her novella, Harbour View, won the 2009 Ken Klonsky Novella Contest and was nominated for this year’s Atlantic Book Awards.
The Halifax Club is located at 1682 Hollis St in downtown Halifax.
Reservations can be made by calling 902.423.8460 or by email - email@example.com
More information is available online at www.halifaxclub.ns.ca
or by contacting
Stephen Patrick Clare
2) CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS
Theme: Language Deadline: August 25th
Her Royal Majesty is a quarterly online publication devoted to publishing excellent new artwork. We are looking for visual and literary submissions for our ninth issue following the theme of language. The deadline is August 25th and the issue will be published in mid-September.
The magazine was founded in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in September 2008 and it has grown from a zine designed to serve the local community into an international literary arts magazine. Her Royal Majesty is a print magazine that is currently available for free online with handmade printed hardcopies available to order through the website: www.heroyalmajesty.ca
Thank you for circulating this call to submissions to your community.
Harriet Alida Lye Kyra Simone
Editor in Chief Assistant Editor
So easy to powerwalk, weedtrim-slash one's way through the jungle of ordinary, seeking the rare and rarefied flower,
when what's required is to stop and hover with hummingbird intensity, intent on the daily bloom.
Even just a tall green stem that lengthens, budless.
With patience and calm the colour presents itself.
Pretty funny, this juggling of perseverance with a (child's) delight in the greenness of green.
Too much brooding, too much ponderance
as lethal as cutworms.
Sunday, July 4, 2010
But if you're still feeling too timid or shy or just plain old and out of steam to DIY, the ASRS is as welcoming as can be. Its energy, its vibe is Ahhh-mazing.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
The award-winners quoted are brilliantly bad, so bogged down with cliches and bodacious blunders that they must be intentional. I mean, there's regular bad writing and then there is soaringly bad writing of LOL calibre. Like this:
"She walked into my office wearing a body that would make a man write bad cheques, but in this paperless age you would first have to obtain her ABA Routing Transit Number and Account Number and then disable your own Overdraft Protection in order to do so.
Kudos for this to runner-up Steve Lynch of San Marcos, Calif. Maybe it's just me, but you gotta admit in these recessionary, post-G20, big-brother-esque days, his entry in the detective fiction category has a certain je ne sais quoi.
To read more badder than bads, visit: http://www.cbc.ca/arts/books/story/2010/06/29/bad-writing-contest.html#ixzz0sHlOV6En
And yet, doesn't it all dredge up Anne Lamott's sage advice about Shitty First Drafts: how you have to write crap in order to get to the good (or at least better) stuff.
So maybe we all should try this as an exercise in breaking the block or conquering the old "I'd rather clean the toilet than write" carrot-and-stick conundrum.
I'm willing to bet that starting a day's practice by coming up with just such a gem may prove that writing a genuinely decent or at least workable first line isn't nearly as excruciatingly hard as we set it up to be.
Just another of the hoops we set ablaze before making ourselves jump/crawl/squeeze through them. So, kill the flames, and think of it as a poop hoop, my apologies to Lamott. And for pete's sake, save your results--there's always next year.
Monday, June 28, 2010
Sunday, June 27, 2010
Different ways of wrestling with the ego, maybe? Or of racing ahead of the wolves howling at us all to stop writing. (The woods are full of them.)
The practice of writing exactly that: a never-ending practice, even when some sessions feel like empty ritual. Showing up is important. So is trusting the cranky capricious little voice in spite of its ornery nature; trusting that basically it speaks/shouts/cries out of love, even when it acts like a princess.
Saturday, June 26, 2010
Sobering, very sobering, to be an onlooker, part of the dominant culture, another generation of white oppressors. Buffy's lyrics so full of toughness and forgiveness. What a way to use words, fighting war, hatred, and oppression, all in the name of peace and community.
An inspiration, a slap-upside-the-head re: our petty worries about publishers' quirks and discounted books. The power of words. A powerful reminder. Harking back to what Victoria Nelson, she of the Block book, says about speaking the unspeakable. Pray that it hits the page sooner rather than later.
Sharpen your pencils.
Friday, June 25, 2010
She doesn't have any suggestions, however, considering silence in light of such things as Chapters' current Buy 3 get the 4th book free deal. Great for readers (though we should all be supporting our local indie bookstores!!) but very scary for writers of all genres.
Scarier still is the deep-discounting of books by such authors as Alice Munro, and works that have only been out a matter of months. A veritable jihad against all who live by the pen.
What's a girl to do but keep bashing away? Taking the odd breather in the sunshine before heading back to the keyboard for more.
I suppose in a way it's nothing new; we write into and against the void, we write in hope. As long as what we aim for is good, and is neither illegal nor immoral, to cop a phrase from a friend.
Why why why, tho, this apparent industry love-hatred for books, when everything in our culture would say (genteelly of course) Shut Up? I don't get it. But the only way to fight it is to keep plunking away.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
For a year I avoided (ha!) opening this book, discovered quite fortuitously at Frenchy's. It's quite a wonderful uncovering and sympathetic analysis of the whys and wherefores of the hurdles and hoops we jump over & through.
Nelson quotes Malcolm Lowry's biographer, Douglas Day, as saying the urge to write copiously, compulsively, is in recognition of "the lethal attraction of silence" and done "in order not to die."
A bit extreme, Nelson says, and I might agree.
But she's also right, I think, in suggesting that compulsive writing "constitutes a defense...an armor against unknown terrors, rather than the constant unfolding expression of inner truth."
Maybe the inner truth is too big, too scary, to attempt to put into words?
Anyway. Food for thought, to be digested and passed accordingly.
I still say write, write, write and write some more, "if only" for the act of doing it. Otherwise, how will the good stuff in there ever come out?
A colleague who is a visual artist says, Even if nothing's happening in my art, it's important to show up at the studio regularly just in case something does.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
A walk in the park.
The sunrise sighting of a deer in the parking lot.
so finely tuned before
its horsey bolt for the woods.
And mist--that too.
Bullfrogs snapping rubber
bands in the swamp;
Walsh's presentation included some wonderful readings from Beach's letters to her "dear little mother" and benefactor, and to James Joyce, whose benefactor she became.
Imagine, a bookseller/publisher who championed authors whose work she loved, work that otherwise mightn't have seen the light of day. Work that was contraband for all kinds of (crazy) reasons.
A risktaker who loved literature and sucked up the rest.
Kudos to Walsh for fanning Beach's flame.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
So much easier to dig holes, slot in plants primed to bloom. Instant garden. Instant colour.
Something to be said for the grunt work.
The digging and turning of sod, hacking away invasive roots.
The more fully formed and slug-proof the plants starting out, the less grief, A Canadian fact.
As long as you leave room for the accidents, the accidental.
A clump of purple lupines that plant themselves, rioting against the irises for attention.
The happiest results those that startle us.
Friday, June 4, 2010
Do we write to avoid mowing lawns, doing laundry, balancing check books, cleaning toilets?
Or do we write for the joy of it, the compulsion of getting down what burns/yearns to be written?
I would like to be a perpetual traveller, an escape artist. But mine is no gypsy soul.
A woman whom lawn mowers hate. Machines refuse to co-operate with.
But pens, ah, pens. The leisurely flow of ink for my eyes only.
Notebooks, desk drawers.
Debit receipts embroidered with scrawl.
The text-ure of one's quiet hand.
Thursday, June 3, 2010
Earth to mars, do we have contact? While Google seduces, captivates but never quiets the clamour.
What a noisy world, a writer's brain.
Not enough words to paint in all the hues and shades, as time itself curls under a fog-bound rock.
Is it just me, or is it harder and harder these days to focus?
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Friday, May 28, 2010
Jazz, world, poppy pop, latin & metal: melded together, rocking the House.
Patience, patience. Meanwhile, solitary words like ridiculous liner notes, for now. More patience. Daily, nightly scribbling wherever you may find yourself.
Opiate of discovery when all the parts hum, shred, soar.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Italians make wine. Painters paint. Dogs bark. Writers write. Even when pushing the pen in circles.
Every day a new start. Winding down, winding up. Ready to pitch the winning ball, or a foul: the same thing at this new-love stage. The practice that weaves the web, and the tinkering later that makes it spider-safe and strong enough to capture readers.
The writer's willing suspension of disbelief.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Yet, more and more, given metafiction's posturing, authenticity is made out to be fiction's embarrassing relative. A hayseed halitosis-addled hick who flashes its author's worst Kodak moments at anyone keen enough to notice. (Wait in the car, you want to say. Or take a fast walk off a short pier before you totally wreck my reputation. I mean, it is just so uncool to be straightforward. To be fresh as a tomato. Or a mushroom.)
The trouble is, the hick, the second cousin twice removed, is a doppleganger. Worse, a mirror image. A tomato with a big fat grin: yours. Mine. Leaking its juices everywhere, staining pages with it. A gorgonzola of a tale, in fact, shouting to be plated.
Monday, May 17, 2010
"I am a bunny. My name is Nicholas. I live in a hollow tree."
Wouldn't you love to write a novel in similar style?
No need for literary trompe-l'oeil
The fact is, I'm baroqued out.
Enough, for now, to dig in the dirt and watch earthworms squiggle their pink escape. A marvel of undercover agency, busywork while things take root.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Expect the unexpected, Be prepared to abandon all agendas to embrace the present, whether it is a Niagara Falls of scooters, acqueduct-drawn water, or the supremo, humbling silenze of a thousand well-laid plans thwarted. This is among the many wonderful lessons Italy taught me, in a whirlwind, life-changing fortnight. Grazie.
Friday, April 23, 2010
St. Francis of Assisi
Entering Day Three of doglessness. Silence except for cats' purring and birdsong.
What a large & loving community, that of bereaved pet owners.
Tis better to have loved hugely & intensely than to cruise along with lukewarm feelings.
All the things that animals teach us (especially dogs).
Non-judgement, unconditional love, spontaneous joy.
In breaking our hearts wide open they teach us compassion,
and the hereness of the here & now.
How sacred these bodily lives--theirs & ours.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
My first dogless stroll today, our route of eleven years, was like walking with one leg,
or two instead of six.
All around the pond, one of everything:
One crow (sorrow)
One turtle on a rock.
One magnificent Great White Egret, a wizard perched on a boulder,
poised to catch a fish, or a minnow
in the murky brown,
the sky's flipside.
The edges of rocks submerged, like teeth.
One of each, a different size and shape
for every function.
A hard medicine, such singularity.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
How else to explain biosolids grown in biosolids passed off as art? Maybe all it will take is a little volcanic action--a cloud full of toxic grit, particles lethal enough to down a jet and collapse the world's airline industry. Some seismic, cataclysmic shake-down to change things up.
Writers, musicians of the world unite. Think if we all withheld what we make from the greedy who would brand everything into one coddled-pap piddling stream of beige. Think if we threw our c(l)ogs into the machinery and seized the mode of production; filled every corner, every cranny on earth with our stories, poems and songs.
What a performance that would be. What lava-blasting pyrotechnics, blanketing the bland with ash.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
It's enough to make you wanna live in a tent and eat berries and write yourself into the sunset, pencil in hand.
Maybe/probably it has always been like this, that the pursuit of ever-shrinking (??????) dollars drives what gets picked and what gets passed. Somehow, though, I think the (past) recession continues to give license to those whose knee-jerk response/first priority is covering their sorry arses and scrambling to make some/more money. No one wants to lose money, and nobody wants to go hungry.
BUT imagine the metric tonnes of literary works from the past that wouldn't have a hope today of ending up anywhere but in a landfill, if publishing had been dictated through the ages by dollar figures and sales projections (based on what, you have to wonder).
Under the current climate--so much more dog-eat-dog than when JK Rowling first entered the scene, lo, a decade ago--her initial 16 rejections (or whatever) might number in the 1600s now.
Oh ye of little faith.
Anyway, we'll rant and we'll roar like true word addicts. And take heart (sort of) that the idiocy sometimes somehow gets redeemed. For proof of this, here are just two fine examples:
Anne Frank's diary was rejected at least 13 times on the grounds that Frank lacked any 'special perceptions, feelings'.
Animal Farm by George Orwell was rejected by at least one sage publisher because ‘It is impossible to sell animal stories in the USA.’
Lust for Life by Irving Stone, rejected 16 times (‘a long, dull novel about an artist’ ) found a publisher and went on to sell about 25 million copies.
For a plethora of examples, go to
(to list just two of a plethora of links) and smile all the way back to your desk, my friends!
Friday, April 16, 2010
It reminds you that there is a community, large & diverse as buttons in a Frenchy's jar: of people who spend their lives clutching pens, paper (oh please like old fashioned carbon paper, the kind that unwinds from typewriters) close enough that their hearts' impressions transfer.
So easy to feel like an oddball--a solo mismatched snap--when everything hollers: Why would you do that???
It's so hard, and some, yes, some, make it look fairy-easy. Forays into found attics and hardwood living rooms of prose; trips into the pure green tea of poems. The pressure cooker, the sourdough starter of lines. Fingernail scratchings of tender spots.
The do-we-have-lift-off lid-about-to-fly-sky-high voices.
Words wide enough to snuggle themselves around an eighteen-wheeler barreling through neon.
Shitty first drafts, shitty fifth sixth and seventh drafts tearing a strip off fiction that karate-chops and monster-trucks flavour-of-the-week over story--
Lullabies for babies, the sore-hearted, sorer-headed, rants for the smarting, kazoos for the farting
dogs named Walter barking
cat-eating cats in love with marking.
Earth is round, earth is flat,
Whether books are skinny or fat.
Let's fall in love again and again and again with words.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
A reminder, tho, not just of what a rare privilege it is to help nurture young talents, and what a gift, but what a responsibility.
Especially when they divulge bits of advice thrust on them by some instructors.
Advice suitable for framing, after you've wrung it out of your system--quickly.
Advice to be pulled out like a whoopie cushion.
Bad as it is, it's worth a laugh.
"Never write stories about kids," a certain unnamed prof advised a certain brilliant young writer who happened to be writing a brilliant novel about a kid. "Stories about kids don't work," said the prof, "because kids have no money, don't have sex, don't do drugs or drink." Likely there was something in there as well about kids being lazy bums who don't have jobs.
The student said, Um, what about Huckleberry Finn?
To which we might add Ellen Foster, Anne of Green Gables, Emily of New Moon, Harry Potter and the narrator of at least one Jonathan Safran Foer novel, to name a few that spring instantly to mind. Shout out the others you know!
May you find this advice as dangerously funny and misguided as I did.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
One of those weeks with other preoccupations, daily doodling on the bottom rung of priorities.
Blogging no different from yoga-ing, walking or running, I guess, or remembering to dust.
Sometimes we should promise ourselves to quit those chores that become onerous. Other times it's simply a matter of quietly picking up the leash and taking yourself for a walk, back towards the practice, the habit.
"Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of your life."
"If you love something set it free...."
"Never put off today what you can do tomorrow."
"I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today."
You gotta love those cliches, wha'? Whether they come from Jonathan Livingston Seagull or Popeye & Wimpy...
Why is it, tho, when I contemplate cliches, they flare in my mind like fake copper plaques on drugstore shelves...1970s merch now known as "giftware."
Not always, tho. And you never know when or where you'll stumble across one that speaks, or squeaks, and then apologizes for itself. Cheese is as cheese does, but we snort when it bears a certain truth: a thought glimpsed like a tiny (sacred) cow high up on a dandelion-dotted hill across a wide meandering stream.
This week's best, tagging spotted on a bench:
No rest for the blessed
Long life for the wicked.
Monday, April 5, 2010
Tulips pushing buds, Lenten rose hellebores blooming on seed catalogue schedule.
Beds groomed, shoots nudged, nursed along--alas, to be chewed to the nub.
Quiet as fog in the night they come, focused as cats after birds.
Hoof prints in the finely-turned soil.
At daybreak not a tulip standing.
Salad for the wanton deer, graceful marauders.
white-tailed flares at the edge of the lawn
into the trees,
Friday, April 2, 2010
Physicists seeking the Higgs boson, 'the God particle' in their $9 billion experiment: the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) with its 17-mile-long underground tunnel.
Fears of black holes: the sun blotted out for good. Holes left in the sky by exploded stars, or something like that.
It would leave us in the dark, they worry. Speculation, conjecture? Nobody knows.
They hope to recreate the Big Bang moment.
But then some say the Higgs boson is thwarting everything, refusing to play along.
Thwarting matter, thwarting time, the seen and the unseen?
Let us place more faith in the sun.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Sometimes buried gems pop from the rubble, from the formless matter of a ditched draft.
Today a nugget that made me laugh when it first jumped into my head, I know, and makes me smile six years later. A miniscule but telling detail. Funny thing that my character harbours such a treasure.
A grow-in-a-jar man called The Hunk. A man that starts off as a tiny shapeless nub of red plastic. Just add water and The Hunk sprouts arms, legs and a head. Like a human tadpole, sort of, and just as slimy if left too long.
A gem tossed my way once upon a time. Instantly recognizable as useful, if only to remind me now of my character's silly side.
Sunday, March 28, 2010
Thursday, March 25, 2010
[The hook, where's the hook?
It's like a salamander under a rock. Exposed to light it slithers away.]
The character goes home to an empty house,pours herself a drink (or not). Let's say instead she does yoga for three hours. Shivasana, the corpse.
And the next day she wakes up, goes to work, busies herself stripping the thorns from roses.
It's just her way, a little way.
Patience, she tells me. Just keep writing. Sometimes it's like this, you have to wait for the slippery spotted squiggle of truth to slither back.
Trade light for light and dark for dark.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Suddenly he is persona non grata. Fears of identity theft loom large. Bank fraud. The card maxed out. His worst concern (out of his being quite young) that some loser scumbag is passing himself off as him, flashing his ID to get into bars. The insult!
Then the cost, not to mention the rigmarole, of replacement cards.
And then, out of the blue, most unexpected, a phonecall.
A flustered trip to Metro Transit's lost-and-found: the wallet has been turned in.
Will it be plundered, gutted, a shell of empty slots? That is the question.
Restored into the proper hands, nothing short of a miracle.
Every card in its rightful place, untouched.
Even the crisp unfolded $5 exactly where it should be.
The kindness of a stranger, an honest, decent, compassionate soul!
Why are we shocked?
Shock soon spilling over into awe, then into a soft, round joy, wonder like an ammonite coming back to life.
An ancient petrified coiled creature, a gem made precious by its perfect form, a talisman, a trinket never to be worn lightly.
The reminder that goodness rules.
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Like refinishing a piece of furniture, maybe--once you've got the structure there. Taking the finish down to the wood, then building it back up again. Making every word count.
The need to create an oblique beauty that must play hard to get. Must keep people guessing, but not too much.
Once again, that fine balance-- the border between telling and showing, between shouts and whispers.
Friday, March 19, 2010
clearing the way for patches of purple.
Crocus and miniature iris and the brave tops of tulips before the deer arrive.
We all push on, laying the groundwork for a profusion of blooms,
or, for the cloven-hoofed, bellies full of bulbs.
Paths made straight, space arranged.
All in quiet, hopeful preparation.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
There's a certain freedom, writing in a coffee shop. Note-taking, the narrative shaping itself but no pressure...just to move the pen and let the characters quibble.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
The good thing about this, tho, is that marking chafes (tho sometimes to the point of blisters).
But it's the grit inside the shell that makes us hanker for pearls.
The chafing the flipside of the writing life that lends urgency, the less-than-subtle nudge, however irritating, that time is precious, and measured against the mundane can produce little gleaming globes of happiness.
Sunday, March 14, 2010
Library books divulge treasured information.
This world with its quiet, hopeful pregnant hours is small and seamlessly circumscribed. It bellies up to you. In it, humans answer phones and only kids with tree forts have passwords.
Writing days yawn and stretch; they are gently waving fir boughs, layered clouds and freshly-mown lawns.
They are peacock-blue ink scrolling from a leaky cartridge pen.
Lines, guy-wires, connecting with translucent sky.
Saturday, March 13, 2010
Friday, March 12, 2010
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Monday, March 8, 2010
to get under the skin of things.
Truth or fiction are moot points.
What counts are the constructs,
the houses we enter
built of images, ideas,
strings of thought and
if these were taken away
imaginations gone mute,
Sunday, March 7, 2010
Not a complaint, hardly a lament. But a marvel--even if the rest of March snows its head off. The hard-crusted base in the backyard non-existent, only moss yelling for grass to get with the program.
May our writing be a raucous onslaught of crocuses.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Sunday, February 28, 2010
Saturday, February 27, 2010
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Monday, February 22, 2010
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Friday, February 19, 2010
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Snow day. D'you know, every now and then when things slow down, you realize that the characters and storylines we cast into the ozone are out there for a long time. For instance, this morning when my neighbour was outside very kindly snowblowing out my driveway, he suddenly stopped the snowblower to ask:
“Does Michael survive?”
"Michael?" I said, thinking huh?
“His heart attack! You know, Michael!”
“His heart attack! You know, Michael!”
Meanwhile, I'm drawing blanks, thinking: Reality show? Like, what? "Sorry, I don’t watch a lot of TV," I probably said.
Meanwhile, I'm drawing blanks, thinking: Reality show? Like, what? "Sorry, I don’t watch a lot of TV," I probably said.
“In your story," prompted my neighbour, like I had Alzheimers. "The Tarot Reader?!!”
“In your story," prompted my neighbour, like I had Alzheimers. "The Tarot Reader?!!”
Ohhhhh. O-kay. But that story was published 10 years ago. And I'm supposed to remember? (Obviously the writing of it couldn’t've inflicted much pain.)
Ohhhhh. O-kay. But that story was published 10 years ago. And I'm supposed to remember? (Obviously the writing of it couldn’t've inflicted much pain.)
But my neighbour was insistent. He wanted to know: Did Michael survive? And I had to scramble, I did, because I really couldn’t remember. So I made up the answer. “Yes,” I said, “he did.” (Best in such situations to end on a cheery note.)
So now I figure that story must need work, if it leaves someone guessing.
Or maybe not, since writing is about raising questions, and also about letting go….
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Monday, February 15, 2010
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Saturday, February 13, 2010
Friday, February 12, 2010
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Monday, February 8, 2010
Sunday, February 7, 2010
Saturday, February 6, 2010
Friday, February 5, 2010
Thursday, February 4, 2010
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Easier preached than practised, alas.
Every excuse: not enough time to immerse myself in the scene. How to open? The right words as invisible as pollen, in short supply these frigid days. My office is too chilly. Procrastination.
The shame of it puts down roots. Stubborn roots against the waxy balm of persistence. Practice.
Slow and steady wins the race.
Take the orchid. A hothouse plant known for its fussiness. A dull dead stick of a thing all year until it flowers each February.
Ignore the groundhog; his message is meaningless.
Tomorrow, I tell myself.
But keep watering.